Shadow Government

A front-row seat to the Republicans' debate over foreign policy, including their critique of the Biden administration.

Why does the Taliban have American bullets?

By Christian Brose When it comes to the reporting C.J. Chivers is doing from Afghanistan, I’m with Tom Ricks: The guy is indispensable — a fearless correspondent and a masterful writer, with sound judgment to match. Which is all the more reason I was so puzzled reading his front-page piece in the New York Times today: ...

By Christian Brose

When it comes to the reporting C.J. Chivers is doing from Afghanistan, I'm with Tom Ricks: The guy is indispensable -- a fearless correspondent and a masterful writer, with sound judgment to match. Which is all the more reason I was so puzzled reading his front-page piece in the New York Times today:

Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

By Christian Brose

When it comes to the reporting C.J. Chivers is doing from Afghanistan, I’m with Tom Ricks: The guy is indispensable — a fearless correspondent and a masterful writer, with sound judgment to match. Which is all the more reason I was so puzzled reading his front-page piece in the New York Times today:

Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces.

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

The presence of this ammunition among the dead in the Korangal Valley, an area of often fierce fighting near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, strongly suggests that munitions procured by the Pentagon have leaked from Afghan forces for use against American troops.

Parsing the media’s coverage of national security is more Peter Feaver’s domain than mine, but "stongly suggests"? We’re talking about 17 rifle magazines here, and even then, only some individual rounds of ammunition within them. Couldn’t this strongly suggest, I don’t know, maybe that of the hundreds and hundreds of Afghan army and police forces killed over the past few years, the Taliban has made off with some of their U.S.-provided ammunition? After all, they are both using the same model of weapon.

I’m not saying it’s impossible that Afghan forces somewhere are leaking their American munitions to the Taliban. I’d almost be surprised if some of them weren’t. Still, this seems like an unbelievably small set of data from which to draw such strong conlcusions about one explanation, when a host of others are equally plausible, if not more so.

Christian Brose is a senior editor at Foreign Policy. He served as chief speechwriter and policy advisor for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005 to 2008, and as speechwriter for former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2004 to 2005.

More from Foreign Policy

The Taliban delegation leaves the hotel after meeting with representatives of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Qatar in Moscow on March 19.

China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

Beijing has its eyes set on using Afghanistan as a strategic corridor once U.S. troops are out of the way.

An Afghan security member pours gasoline over a pile of seized drugs and alcoholic drinks

The Taliban Are Breaking Bad

Meth is even more profitable than heroin—and is turbocharging the insurgency.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the U.N. Security Council from her office in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Sept. 4, 2020.

Belarus’s Unlikely New Leader

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya didn’t set out to challenge a brutal dictatorship.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid

What the Taliban Takeover Means for India

Kabul’s swift collapse leaves New Delhi with significant security concerns.